By Jesse O’Brien
The Williamston Post Staff Writer
The Williamston City Council will have to find a replacement for councilmember Andy Simmons since he has resigned from his post to train for the 2012 Olympic wrestling team.
At the city council meeting on Sept. 26, the council voted to accept Simmons’ resignation, and he was immediately relieved of his post’s duties. However, Simmons would have likely been relieved of his duties in any event because his absence at the city council meeting on Sept. 12 marked his third straight unexcused absence after which a seat is considered vacant.
Simmons, a former four-time state champion wrestler for Williamston High School and two-time All American while at Michigan State University, said in the letter that the time he would need to spend training for the Olympics would not leave him enough time to fulfill his responsibilities as a councilmember.
“I just didn’t want to be on council and not be there as far as knowing the issues and information,” Simmons said.
He added that when he was elected, he was aware that his extracurricular activities might eventually force him to resign from council.
“For the most part it was in the back of my mind,” Simmons said. “I knew … that I wanted to keep training, but still I wanted to see if I could balance training with council.”
The timing of Simmons’ resignation poses a problem for the council because it will now have to scramble to find a replacement within 60 days of its acceptance of the resignation. Because Simmons did not resign before Aug. 16, his seat will not be eligible in the upcoming election and whoever replaces him will have to hold the seat until the following year’s election, making it a two-year position.
City Manager Tim Allard said the council preferred to hold off on appointing the position until the new members were elected, further shortening the time to find a replacement .
Allard said that with the seat left vacant by Simmons, in addition to the empty seats which are up for election, the council could be drastically changed soon.
“Every councilmember brings [their] own personal worldview, priorities and objectives and those are the people who make decisions that affect the community,” Allard said. “We could have a significantly different council after the election and that could have some degree of ramifications.”
Councilmember Larry Wittrup came into the council under similar circumstances, stepping into the vacancy left by former Councilmember Tim Grossman. However, because Grossman resigned before Aug. 16, his seat will be on the ballot during the election, leaving four seats to be decided on Nov. 8 by the people of Williamston and Simmons’ seat to be filled by the council.
Wittrup said he did not expect Simmons’ resignation to affect the council very much.
“It’s like in a corporation,” he said. “Council’s made up of seven people, and if one steps down, the rest have to carry on.”
Wittrup added that while unfortunate, the departure of colleagues is something that is unavoidable, and the council will have to do its best to deal while being one person short.
“The problem is, everybody has a private life,” he said. “It’s not a full-time job serving on council, so you have to do what’s best for you in your individual personal life.”